Non-profit

Ocean Conservancy

Location:

WASHINGTON, DC

Tax ID:

23-7245152

Tax-Exempt Status:

501(c)(3)

Budget (2017):

Revenue: $24,729,820
Expenses: $23,984,534
Assets: $36,119,574

Formation:

1972

CEO:

Janis Searles Jones

Type:

Environmentalist Group

Ocean Conservancy is a Washington, D.C.-based environmentalist advocacy group that designs ocean policies for federal and state governments. It tends to advocate for left-of-center environmentalist policies.

Though the Conservancy is broadly concerned with ocean-based conservation, including ocean acidification, coastal cleanups, and fishing, its focus has shifted towards climate change at least since 2019. [1] The organization has announced the goal to reduce global carbon emissions to net-zero by 2050.

History

In 1971, marketing expert Bill Kardash attended the annual International Whaling Commission conference. There he supposedly had a chance encounter with music legend John Denver who attended to present a petition to stop whaling. Kardash later became an activist environmentalist, and the next year he founded the Delta Corporation, which would eventually become Ocean Conservancy. [2]

During its early years, Ocean Conservancy was primarily focused on opposing whaling and engaged in marketing campaigns to raise public awareness. In 1982, the International Whaling Commission banned commercial whaling, and the Conservancy began to broaden its goals to general ocean wildlife protection. In the 1980s, the Conservancy launched the Marine Sanctuary Program to lobby for the establishment of coastal wildlife preserves. In 1986, the Conservancy organized the first International Coastal Cleanup,[3] an international volunteer effort which has attracted a claimed 12 million volunteers to clean up 220 million pounds of waste over the last 30 years. [4]

Funding

In 2019, Ocean Conservancy received nearly all its $28.7 million in revenue from donations, with 62% coming from individuals, 22% from foundations, and 14% from corporations. The organization spent $4.4 million on fundraising and membership development. [5]

In 2018, Ocean Conservancy paid $174,000[6] for digital fundraising to Revolution Messaging, a marketing company founded by Scott Goldstein, the external online director of Obama for America, which became the PAC Organizing for Action. [7][8] Revolution Messaging has worked for the campaigns of Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Beto O’Rourke (D-TX). [9]

Lobbying

Ocean Conservancy engages in lobbying to support favored environmentalist policies, mostly concerning the establishment and continuity of federally protected wildlife preserves. From 2012 to 2019, lobbying spending has steadily increased from $224,000 with five lobbyists to $926,000 with fourteen lobbyists. As of July 2020, it spent $367,000 lobbying in the year. [10][11]

Though Ocean Conservancy does not directly contribute to political candidates, its leadership and employees tend to donate thousands of dollars each election cycle. In the 2020 cycle, $4,108 has been donated exclusively to Democratic candidates, with presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) receiving $1,324. In 2016, Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton (D-NY) received $4,058. [12]

Climate Change

In Ocean Conservancy’s 2019 annual report, climate change was declared the organization’s primary focus. [13] Its policy goal is to limit global warming within 1.5 degrees Celsius of pre-industrial temperatures, which requires bringing the earth to net-zero carbon-emissions output by 2050. [14] To this end, Ocean conservancy advocates making climate change the centerpiece of a “blue-green foreign policy” and for the United States to reenter the Paris Climate Agreement. [15]

Opposition to the Trump Administration

Lawsuit

In January 2018, Ocean Conservancy and Earthjustice announced they were suing the federal government over an alleged violation of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). [16]

In June 2017, the Department of Commerce added 39 additional days to the legal fishing period for red snapper in the Gulf of Mexico. Ocean Conservancy filed a FOIA to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) regarding records pertaining to the fishing extension. After NOAA failed to reply in the mandated 20-day window for FOIA requests, the lawsuit was filed. [17]

In December 2017, the federal district court of the District of Columbia ordered the Department of Commerce, NOAA, and the National Marine Fisheries Service to halt the fishing extension. Additionally, the district judge retained jurisdiction over the red snapper fishing season in 2018. [18]

National Environmental Policy Act

In July 2020, the Conservancy criticized the Trump administration for rolling back enforcement of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), which requires federal agencies to consider environmental impacts on all activity. [19]

New England Marine National Monument

In June 2020, the Conservancy criticized the Trump administration for permitting commercial fishing in 4,913 square miles of water constituting the Northeastern Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument off the coast of New England. In its proclamation, the administration argued that the region could sustain manageable fishing levels without a noticeable environmental impact. [20] In response, Conservancy CEO Janis Searles Jones accused the administration of exploiting Black Lives Matter demonstrations and COVID-19 to prevent scrutiny. [21]

National Ocean Policy

In June 2019, the Conservancy criticized the Trump administration for rescinding the National Ocean Policy, a set of guidelines established by the Obama administration in 2010 to prioritize the preservation of ocean wildlife in federal policy. President Donald Trump altered the policy’s language to prioritize the “economic, security, and environmental interest of the U.S.” [22]

Criticism

“Stemming the Tide” report

In September 2015, Ocean Conservancy released the “Stemming the Tide” report along with the World Wildlife Fund, US State Department and others to outline strategies to clean up plastic waste in the oceans. A month later, an open letter signed by over 200 nonprofits, government agencies, and scientists criticized Ocean Conservancy’s report, arguing that its proposed waste management policies were outdated. Specifically, the letter condemned an overreliance on burning waste, a focus on promoting Western-based multinational companies at the expense of Asian countries, and an acceptance of rising plastic levels in the oceans. [23]

Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill

In July 2012, a group of environmentalist nonprofits, including Ocean Conservancy, The Nature Conservancy, Oxfam, the Environmental Defense Fund, the National Audubon Society, and the National Wildlife Federation issued a report laying out a plan for how BP should pay for the damages caused by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. The report recommended a $500 million restoration of the Louisiana coast, a $165 million restoration of Mobile Bay, and the purchase of large tracts of coastal land in Mississippi, Alabama, Texas, and Florida for indefinite conservation, among other initiatives. [24]

In response, a representative of then-Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal (R-LA) said, “the environmentalists’ report is so out of touch that I put my copy in the recycling bin.” He accused the organizations of using the crisis as an opportunity to fund “pet projects” and fulfill political agendas. Louisiana State University law professor Edward P. Richards also criticized the plan for spending money on regions which saw little impact from the spill. [25]

References

  1. “2019 Annual Report.” Ocean Conservancy. Spring 2020. Accessed July 27, 2020. https://oceanconservancy.org/about/financials/. ^
  2. “History.” Ocean Conservancy. Accessed July 27, 2020. https://oceanconservancy.org/about/history/. ^
  3. “History.” Ocean Conservancy. Accessed July 27, 2020. https://oceanconservancy.org/about/history/. ^
  4. Parker, Thomas. “World Oceans Day: Profiling five ocean clean-up organizations.” NS Packaging. June 8, 2020. Accessed July 27, 2020. https://www.nspackaging.com/analysis/world-oceans-day-ocean-clean-up/, ^
  5. “2019 Annual Report.” Ocean Conservancy. Spring 2020. Accessed July 27, 2020. https://oceanconservancy.org/about/financials/. ^
  6. Ocean Conservancy Form 990.” Propublica. Accessed July 27, 2020. https://projects.propublica.org/nonprofits/display_990/237245152/05_2019_prefixes_23-23%2F237245152_201806_990_2019051316294626. ^
  7. “Scott Goldstein.” LinkedIn. Accessed July 27, 2020. https://www.linkedin.com/in/scottgoodstein/. ^
  8. Steinhauser, Paul. “’Obama for America’ to morph into ‘Organizing for Action.’” Political Ticker. January 18, 2013. Accessed July 27, 2020. http://politicalticker.blogs.cnn.com/2013/01/18/obama-for-america-to-morph-into-organizing-for-action/. ^
  9. Cramer, Ruby. “Two Years Ago, Revolution Messaging Helped Bernie Raise Millions. Now They’re In Crisis.” BuzzFeed News. July 7, 2018. Accessed July 27, 2020. https://www.buzzfeednews.com/article/rubycramer/revolution-messaging. ^
  10. “Lobbying.” Open Secrets. Accessed July 27, 2020. https://www.opensecrets.org/orgs/lobbying?id=D000064969. ^
  11. “Client Profile: Ocean Conservancy.” Open Secrets. Accessed July 27, 2020. https://www.opensecrets.org/federal-lobbying/clients/summary?cycle=2019&id=D000064969. ^
  12. “Candidates.” Open Secrets. Accessed July 27, 2020. https://www.opensecrets.org/orgs/recipients?toprecipscycle=2016&candscycle=2014&id=D000064969. ^
  13. “2019 Annual Report.” Ocean Conservancy. Spring 2020. Accessed July 27, 2020. https://oceanconservancy.org/about/financials/. ^
  14. “Confronting Climate Change.” Ocean Conservancy. Accessed July 27, 2020. https://oceanconservancy.org/climate/. ^
  15. “Elements of a Blue-Green Foreign Policy.” Ocean Conservancy. Accessed July 27, 2020. https://oceanconservancy.org/climate/publications/elements-blue-green-foreign-policy/. ^
  16. “Statement: Ocean Conservancy Sues the Trump Administration over Violation of the Freedom of Information Act.” Ocean Conservancy. January 23, 2019. Accessed July 27, 2020. https://oceanconservancy.org/news/statement-ocean-conservancy-sues-trump-administration-violation-freedom-information-act/. ^
  17. “Statement: Ocean Conservancy Sues the Trump Administration over Violation of the Freedom of Information Act.” Ocean Conservancy. January 23, 2019. Accessed July 27, 2020. https://oceanconservancy.org/news/statement-ocean-conservancy-sues-trump-administration-violation-freedom-information-act/. ^
  18. “Statement: Ocean Conservancy Sues the Trump Administration over Violation of the Freedom of Information Act.” Ocean Conservancy. January 23, 2019. Accessed July 27, 2020. https://oceanconservancy.org/news/statement-ocean-conservancy-sues-trump-administration-violation-freedom-information-act/. ^
  19. Fredrickson, Ivy N. “Trump Administration Takes Major Step to Weaken Our Environment.” Ocean Conservancy. July 20, 2020. Accessed July 27, 2020. https://oceanconservancy.org/blog/2020/07/20/trump-administration-takes-major-step-weaken-environment/. ^
  20. “Proclamation on Modifying The Northeast Canyons And Seamounts Marine National Monument. Whitehouse.gov. June 5, 2020. Accessed July 27, 2020. https://www.whitehouse.gov/presidential-actions/proclamation-modifying-northeast-canyons-seamounts-marine-national-monument/. ^
  21. “Statement: Trump Proclamation to Strip Protections from New England Marine National Monument.” Ocean Conservancy. June 5, 2020. Accessed July 27, 2020. https://oceanconservancy.org/news/ocean-conservancy-statement-trump-proclamation-strip-protections-new-england-marine-national-monument/. ^
  22. Trice, Amy. “President Trump rescinds the National Ocean Policy.” Ocean Conservancy. June 19, 2018. Accessed July 27, 2020. https://oceanconservancy.org/blog/2018/06/19/president-trump-rescinds-national-ocean-policy/. ^
  23. “Open Letter and Technical Critique to Ocean Conservancy regarding ‘Stemming the Tide’ Report.” Gaia. Accessed July 27, 2020. https://www.no-burn.org/open-letter-to-ocean-conservancy-regarding-deep-concerns-about-the-stemming-the-tide-report/. ^
  24. “Coalition offers vision for Gulf of Mexico restoration.” Texarckana Gazette. July 17, 2012. Accessed July 27, 2020. https://www.texarkanagazette.com/news/national/story/2012/jul/18/coalitioffers-visigulf-mexico-restoration/277340/. ^
  25. “Coalition offers vision for Gulf of Mexico restoration.” Texarkana Gazette. July 17, 2012. Accessed July 27, 2020. https://www.texarkanagazette.com/news/national/story/2012/jul/18/coalitioffers-visigulf-mexico-restoration/277340/. ^
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Nonprofit Information

  • Accounting Period: June - May
  • Tax Exemption Received: December 1, 1972

  • Available Filings

    Period Form Type Total revenue Total functional expenses Total assets (EOY) Total liabilities (EOY) Unrelated business income? Total contributions Program service revenue Investment income Comp. of current officers, directors, etc. Form 990
    2017 Jun Form 990 $24,729,820 $23,984,534 $36,119,574 $2,594,983 N $24,058,239 $0 $489,415 $2,422,057
    2016 Jun Form 990 $18,861,776 $22,069,932 $33,681,277 $2,473,346 N $18,615,990 $0 $503,246 $1,578,887
    2015 Jun Form 990 $33,952,913 $21,641,573 $37,001,578 $2,928,212 N $30,924,938 $0 $526,288 $1,682,546 PDF
    2014 Jun Form 990 $20,023,762 $19,413,660 $27,591,139 $3,981,996 N $18,460,890 $22,579 $505,705 $1,548,097 PDF
    2013 Jun Form 990 $23,180,046 $19,308,934 $26,017,696 $4,074,988 N $21,260,202 $195,894 $499,668 $1,412,431 PDF
    2012 Jun Form 990 $21,851,502 $19,502,454 $22,190,705 $4,524,722 N $20,898,891 $160,954 $409,340 $1,131,161 PDF
    2011 Jun Form 990 $16,027,885 $17,401,284 $19,849,107 $4,243,987 N $14,138,846 $57,213 $445,413 $799,456 PDF

    Additional Filings (PDFs)

    Ocean Conservancy

    1300 19TH ST NW STE 800
    WASHINGTON, DC 20036-1653